Lawyers attack new civil court fees plans

Claimant and defendant lawyers have issued resounding criticisms of government plans to increase civ...

Claimant and defendant lawyers have issued resounding criticisms of government plans to increase civil court fees.

Both the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers and the Forum of Insurance Lawyers submitted responses to a consultation paper on fee changes by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Apil complained that a hike in court fees could lead to a reluctance among insurers to cover personal injury cases, because of the increased financial risk.

"We firmly believe that the court service, which operates for the public good, should not have to be paid for by its users," said Apil secretary Mark Harvey. "The fact that the government wants to hike the fees even more concerns me deeply. We have a very serious access-to-justice issue here that could affect thousands of people."

Foil vice-president Andrew Underwood argued that increased fees, which could be enacted by 1 October, are simply another form of "indirect taxation" on the insurance industry.

"Cost recovery on NHS charges has been pushed through, so I think this is inevitable. Insurers would, however, be slightly more in favour if the money was used to benefit the court system.

"Five years ago, the Woolf reforms asked for a comprehensive review of technology in the court system - this has yet to happen. If the government wants to recover more costs, it must be reinvested."

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